Are you ready to head out and buy the family Christmas tree? If you’re buying from a retail lot of pre-cut trees, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Before you even leave the house, give some thought to the kind of tree you intend to bring home. Discuss it with the other family members. Do you want a full, bushy tress? Something a little more slender, with a little of the trunk peeking through? Long needles, short needles? Everyone has their own preferences, so your family may have to reach some kind of compromise on what they expect for their perfect Christmas tree.
- Measure before you go. That tree’s going to look much small outside than it does in the house, so it’s best to deal in concrete measurements. You’ll probably need a tree at least a foot lower than the height of your ceiling. (You want to show off the star, don’t you?) Be sure to take width into account, too. Most commercial Christmas trees are trimmed to an 80% ratio – which means that a ten foot tree will be about 8 feet wide. (Remember, too, that the trees on the lot have been bunched up for transport, so they may get much wider once they’ve unfolded a little.)
- Now that you know what you’re looking for, there’s no point in waiting. Most of the trees for the season have already been cut, and they’re not going to age any faster at your house than they do in the lot. If you don’t want to bring it in right away, you can keep it – in water, of course – outside your house for awhile, preferably on the north side of the house. When you’re ready to bring it in, you may need to cut another inch off the trunk to freshen the cut before you put it in your tree stand.
- Look for a lot that’s well lit (so you can see the trees) and that keeps the lot out of direct sunlight. You want to make sure that your tree’s been kept in as good conditions as possible.
- When it comes to selecting the tree that will grace your home this holiday season, there are a few simple tests you can make. First of all, take a good look at the tree. Is the trunk straight? Is it beautiful on all sides? The trunk should be a little sticky, in most cases. Watch out for discolored needles or a musty odor. If you have any doubt at all about the tree’s freshness, pick another tree. If they all look bad, go to another lot.
- Take a branch between your thumb and forefinger and tug on it a little. Very few needles should come out, unless you’re tugging very, very hard. Try breaking a needle. It should feel fresh and crisp – sort of like a ver small fresh carrot.
You can also try shaking and bouncing your tree on the ground and see what falls out. Brown needles are okay – they’re just last year’s growth. What you need to watch out for are green needles falling. That’s a sign that the tree’s dried out, and no amount of water is going to revitalize it.
Once you’ve found your perfect tree, there’s nothing left to do but pay for it and take it home. Your tree dealer should help you tie it securely to your car. (But I’ve never regretted bringing along extra twine!)
Enjoy your Christmas tree, and the very Merriest of Christmases!
Source: National Christmas Tree Association, www.christmastree.org, Michigan Christmas Tree Association, www.mcta.org.